Nigeria eased past Burundi 4-0 in Rabat to secure second place in Group C, and a spot in the quarterfinals, of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) but will next face a tough challenge against Cameroon, with a trip to the 2023 Women’s World Cup on the line.
Uchenna Kanu scored twice and Rasheedat Ajibade and Peace Efih got the other two as the Super Falcons raced into a 3-0 halftime lead but were only able to add one more in the second half against the tournament rookies.
Nigeria finished second in the group behind South Africa and now meet Cameroon in the quarterfinal on Thursday. The four quarterfinalists at the tournament in Morocco qualify for next year’s Women’s World Cup finals.
Burundi finished bottom of the group and exit after their maiden appearance at Women’s Afcon.
Ajibade opened the scoring for Nigeria from the penalty spot in the 25th minute, after being brought down by goalkeeper Jeanine Irankoze, who hurt herself in the challenge and had to be stretchered off, making way for 16-year-old Amissa Inarunkundo.
Inarunkundo received a harsh welcome to the tournament, conceding two goals in a minute as Nigeria extended their lead to 3-0 going into the break. Efih scored in the 28th minute as Burundi failed to deal with Ajibade’s cross and Kanu converted in the 29th minute, once again assisted by Ajibade, whose cross escaped Inarunkundo’s outstretched hands to find Kanu at the back post.
Nigeria came out firing in the second half, netting after 22 seconds as Ajibade intercepted a poor pass from Inarunkundo and found Kanu in the centre of the box, who slotted it into the bottom right corner for her second of the game.
But a second-half goal deluge that many thought would perhaps follow did not materialize as Nigeria used all their substitutions to hand fringe players some tournament experience.
Nigeria failed to capitalize on many opportunities; a factor they will have to improve on if they are to get past Cameroon and punch their ticket to next year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Although undoubtedly not the birthday present that Burundi captain Asha Djafari would have wanted, they will head home with their heads held high, having represented their country at its first-ever Women’s Afcon appearance, doing so with the youngest squad in the competition’s history.